FRESNO, Calif. -- A Fresno mother accused of encouraging her 12-year-old daughter to fight another girl -- a 35-second battle posted on YouTube -- said Monday that school officials ignored her complaints about her daughter being bullied.
In her first interview since her arrest in September, Carla Jimenez, 43, admitted that she made a poor decision when she told her daughter to defend herself against the other girl instead of breaking up the fight.
But Jimenez said she wouldn't be facing a criminal trial in Fresno County Superior Court if Scandinavian Middle School officials had put a stop to the bullying.
Jimenez spoke with reporters before jury selection began in Judge Gary Orozco's courtroom, where she has pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
Testimony is expected to begin Tuesday after a jury is picked.
Her attorney, Roger Vehrs, said Jimenez's frustration with school officials is a valid defense.
"Boys get in fights all the time and their parents aren't charged," Vehrs said. "So why is my client being singled out? The school and parents should have resolved this."
Sheriff's deputies arrested Jimenez after her daughter got into a fight with a 13-year-old girl. The 12-year-old girl's aunt, Nancy Ramirez, also was arrested after driving the girl to the fight location and encouraging her niece to fight the 13-year-old, sheriff's deputies said.
On March 30, Ramirez pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. But Jimenez chose to contest the charge, saying Monday that she never wanted her daughter to fight anyone.
Both sides agree that the 13-year-old and Jimenez's daughter once were friends at Scandinavian Middle School. But in late August, Jimenez's daughter left to attend another school in Fresno.
Jimenez said she transferred her child because Scandinavian school officials failed to stop the bullying of her daughter. After her daughter enrolled at another school, the students at Scandinavian kept harassing her with text and phone messages, Jimenez said.
On the day of the fight, Jimenez said, her daughter received hundreds of text messages, including from the 13-year-old. The messages challenged Jimenez's daughter to fight the 13-year-old, she said.
"Are you going to punk out or are you going to fight?" one of the messages said, according to Vehrs.
Before the fight, Jimenez said she went to Scandinavian and spoke with Vice Principal Michael Ota about students using text messages to harass her daughter. Jimenez said Ota told her that he would take care of the problem the next day.
Ramirez, however, was working on another plan. She decided to drive to the fight location in order to mediate a truce, Jimenez said. But that never happened, she said.
When Jimenez got to the fight location, she said, her daughter had already been confronted by the 13-year-old and about 30 of her friends. The fight began before she could stop it, Jimenez said.
In the heat of the battle, Jimenez said, she may have said words to encourage her daughter to defend herself. "I made a poor decision and I apologize for that," she said.
"But they instigated the fight to put it on YouTube for their entertainment."
The witness list includes a Scandinavian student -- a friend of the 13-year-old -- who posted the fight on YouTube, Vehrs said. Jimenez, both combatants, Ota and several sheriff's deputies also will be called to the witness stand.
Spokeswoman Susan Bedi said Monday that it would be inappropriate for the Fresno Unified School District to comment because Ota has not yet testified.
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